The Structural Engineer > Archive > Volume 85 (2007) > Issues > Issue 16 > Bridge engineering: turning problems into possibilities
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Bridge engineering: turning problems into possibilities

Bridges are a symbol, a metaphor, an icon, a sculpture, a monument, and a way to get from A to B. They are photographed, painted, eulogised, crossed, and climbed. But with bridges meaning many things to many people, what drives their creators? What draws structural engineers of all ages and backgrounds to these ancient and iconic structures? No doubt the drive of each bridge designer is unique, but rarely are structural engineers given more opportunity to overcome complex challenges and meet the needs of a growing society through such daring, elegant, and creative solutions. Because a bridge is not called to offer shelter or habitation like a building, its structural skeleton is not hidden by architectural additions that can distort space and proportion. Bridges are defined not by what is added to the essential load-bearing structure but by the simple purity of that structure itself. Bridge design provides a unique opportunity for structural engineers to prominently exhibit their creative skill in overcoming nature to provide human transport. The design of bridges is a creative process because it requires a synergy of artistic and technical skill. In good design form must follow function, and the constraints and demands of each bridge project help to preclude possibilities and often lead naturally to the structural form selected. Nick Burdette, BS (Civ Eng), MS (Struct. Eng) Arup